New Bat Has Odd-Shaped Nose


A new species of bat has just been discovered in Vietnam, according to a paper published in the Journal of Mammalogy. One of the bat’s most distinctive visual features is an unusual nose that somewhat resembles the head of an owl.

To see that shape in the above images, look for the bat’s nostrils, which become the eyes of the “owl.”

The scientific name for this newest member of the bat community is Hipposideros griffini, belonging to the family known for its distinctive noses that help bats to focus echolocation calls. The bat’s pointy ears then collect the returning calls, which allow the listener to create a full and accurate mental image of its surroundings. This sophisticated system is one reason why carnivorous bats are able to hunt so well in the dark, finding tiny insects in no time at all.

The new species was discovered during a survey of bats in Vietnam over a span of three years. Eleven of 308 bats of the Hipposideros genus that were captured and handled for study displayed differing characteristics from all known taxa, so project leader Vu Dinh Thong of Hanoi’s Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources and his team established the new species.

The bat’s unique characteristics include a distinctive echolocation frequency, as well as size and DNA differences with other members of Hipposideros.

Thong and his team determined this after capturing the bats and measuring them for features such as forearm length, ear height, nose-leaf width, tooth row length, and body mass. Tissue samples were taken for genetic analysis. Recordings were made inside a flight tent, in front of caves, and under forest canopies, identifying calls of bats when they left their roosts and when they were foraging. The scientists used software for bat call analysis that can display color sonograms and measure frequencies.

The echolocation frequencies of the new species range from 76.6 to 79.2 kHz, which is higher than frequencies of several related bats that range from 64.7 to 71.4 kHz. Additional evidence shows that at least two of the related bat species are occupying the same geographical region, yet have retained their separate identities.

H. griffini is named after the late professor Donald Redfield Griffin of Rockefeller University in New York. Griffin was a leading world expert on bat echolocation research, which was key to identifying H. griffini as a new species. The proposed common name for this bat is “Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat.” (From the side, the nose does look more like a leaf. A flap of skin provides the shape.)

The new species was found at Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam and in Chu Mom Ray National Park, situated on the mainland more than 600 miles to the south. H. griffini joins about 70 other species within the genus Hipposideros.

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